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A bit of History on the Great Smoky Railway Company

The rail line dates back to the 1840s. The route that the Great Smoky Railway travels was completed in 1891, so it is over 100 years old. It was first known as the Western North Carolina Railroad. Next it became the Southern Railway, and finally was taken over by Norfolk Southern. However, the automobile and then the big highways took their toll on this railway's passenger services.

In 1988, Norfolk Southern, citing decreasing traffic and increasing costs of maintenance, filed for abandonment of the 67 miles of track between Dillsboro and Murphy. Shortly after this, under the leadership of Governor James Martin, The State of North Carolina's Department of Transportation bought the track and the authority to run trains on it. They then signed an operating lease agreement with the Great Smoky Mountains Railway, Inc.

Now the railway's stock:

The railway operates four (4) diesel-electric locomotives, and one Baldwin steam locomotive, #1702, which served the army in WW II, and was the real star of the movie This Property is Condemned (also starring Robert Redford, Natalie Wood and Charles Bronson, incidentally ). The #1702 was the locomotive that pulled the train I was on - and it's why I took this trip to start with. I can go on the Piedmont to Raleigh with a diesel any day, this was gonna be special.

The reconditioned coaches, too, have their own histories, and all have been very nicely restored. Three are from the Atlantic Coast Lines - the Silver Meteor (New York to Miami), Dixie Flyer (Cincinnati-Atlanta-Tampa), the Champion (NYC to Tampa), and the Panama Limited (the one I rode in) that was a part of Illinois Central's Chicago <-> New Orleans trips.

Author: Gayle Swanson

Copyright 1998 - Gayle Swanson, RailroadInfo.Com


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